Academic journal article Mankind Quarterly

Intelligence and Education: The Saudi Case

Academic journal article Mankind Quarterly

Intelligence and Education: The Saudi Case

Article excerpt

Measures of formal schooling are closely related to cognitive ability. Other socioeconomic factors also influence individual and national IQ, and the differences between nations in wealth, health, technological innovation, attitudes and values, economic development and political maturity are correlated with differences in the average IQ of the population. Using results from the application of the Standard Progressive Matrices (SPM) to a sample from the Saudi general education system (N= 3209), the mean IQ for Saudi Arabia is calculated to be 80.6 ± 11.1 according to British norms. The results of this study are compared with those of an earlier study in Saudi Arabia (Abu Hatab et al., 1977). This comparison shows IQ gains ("Flynn effects") for many of the younger, but not the oldest age groups. Analysis of IQ differences between public and private schools, and comparison of different age groups, indicate that children who are educated in the public school system of Saudi Arabia show an age-related IQ decline relative to children in Britain and the United States, on whom the SPM test was normed for different age groups. The study also shows that the better performance of females, combined with a significant effect of mothers' education on children's IQ, could strengthen the role of females in the society in the near future.

Key Words: Saudi Arabia, Intelligence, Flynn effect, Gender difference, Progressive Matrices.


The history of intelligence theory and testing can be divided into six major periods: Historical Foundations (up to 1690), Modern Foundations (up to 1869), The Great Schools (up to 1901), The Great Influences (up to 1937), Contemporary Explorations (up to 1969), and Current Efforts (up to the present). The Historical Foundations period was dominated by Platonic philosophy and Christian theology, which identified the aspects of the mind with the soul: as a perfect, immaterial, universal attribute of humans.

Influenced by scientific methods, the Modern Foundations period was characterized by the work of prominent philosophers and scientists such as Darwin (1809-1882), Spencer (1820-1903), and Galton (1822-1911). Galton introduced the idea of objective measurement of human capacities, devised tests to measure simple sensory and motor functions, and invented many of the statistical concepts and methods used for data analysis. His definition of human mental ability included both general and specific components. According to Galton, the general component is the larger source of individual differences. It was seen as being predominantly a product of biological evolution, and as more strongly hereditary than the specific abilities. Before Galton, Herbert Spencer had already interpreted individual differences in intelligence as intrinsic to the human condition. Spencer's and Galton's ideas set the stage by the end of the nineteenth century for all the basic ideas and questions that dominated research in differential psychology in the twentieth century (Jensen, 1998).

The Great Schools period witnessed the advent of several prominent European schools of psychology. Some of the prominent American psychologists of this period studied overseas, and then returned home to establish influential psychology programs in the United States. The study of intelligence gained popularity during this era, bolstered by the work of Wilhelm Wundt (1832-1920), James McKeen Cattell (1860-1944), G. S. Hall (1844-1924), and Hermann Ebbinghaus (1850-1909) (Indiana University, 2010a).

As students of the Great Schools began to form their own programs, the number of theoretical and empirical investigations of intelligence increased. A milestone during this time period was the development of the United States' Army Alpha and Beta testing program, established under the direction of Robert Mearns Yerkes (Larson, 1994; McGuire, 1994; Indiana University, 2010b). This massive project gave rise to the first group of intelligence tests and provided a fertile training ground for many psychologists who would become influential in the ensuing decades. …

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